A list of things I bought on December 31st, 2016:

  1. This domain name, again, somewhat reluctantly.
  2. A beautiful new journal from the Art Supply Depo, pages lined on one side and unlined on the opposite side, all empty so far.
  3. A heavily used, well-loved drum set, found on craigslist and haggled over via awkward text messages.

I know that typing “it’s been a particularly tough year” has become more or less a cliche by now, but it’s as true for me as it is for anyone. Even though I’m more of a solstice gal myself, the 31st of December is as good a time as any to reflect on the challenges and changes life has thrown my way over the past 365 days.

Early this year, I got an exciting job opportunity. Without thinking twice, I packed it in, left my home, my family, my friends, and my job with the Metroparks to join Taylor Studios in Illinois. Winter was beautifully splayed across 432 miles of the Midwest.

Then, one day, I broke.

I spent the spring season grappling with panic disorder, major depression, inadvertent addiction to medication that was inappropriately prescribed to me, and ultimately having to make the toughest decision of my life so far: that I needed to hit the “pause” button on everything, so that I could focus on my mental health.

In April, for the second time in 2016, I left a job, a house, a city, a state. But this time, there was nothing exciting or brag-worthy on the other side of the leap — just my old bedroom in my parents’ basement, and a whole lot of time to heal.

And that’s how summer passed. I took many tiny steps forward, and plenty of tumbles back. I learned to cope with unprovoked panic, energy-sapping melancholy, and even some symptoms of PTSD from my tough time in Illinois. I was humbled by the incredible support offered by my parents, my sister, my romantic partner, and countless other close friends. Just as I appreciated the extra couple minutes of light every day, I gradually learned to once again appreciate what life and the universe gave me.

I got stronger. I moved back to Toledo, lucky enough to be taken in by the sweetest little family anyone could ever ask to be a part of. Craving a purpose and needing money, but still afraid to commit to a “real job,” I started freelance writing — and surprised myself when I found modest success. I picked up a couple shifts a week at the Black Kite, a bright oasis of love (and coffee) in the middle of our neighborhood.

Autumn reminded me not to get comfortable or attached. When I awoke to a different world on November 9th, I was gripped by shock, disappointment, fear, grief, and despair. A lot of the things I had struggled with all year were triggered all over again. The election prompted conversations with my partner that ultimately led us to realize that our romantic relationship wasn’t working. There was a breakup. There was loss. There was change.

But I rolled with the punches; I knew that I had no choice but to. I loved and cared for myself well. I surrounded myself with friends and supportive communities. I got back to therapy, like every human being probably should. I steadily picked up more shifts and responsibilities at the Black Kite.

Before I knew it, the snow was snowing yet again. I worked my ass off because I wanted to have enough money to buy a few small Christmas gifts for my friends and family. Even though materialism isn’t the true spirit of Christmas etc. etc., it felt really wonderful to be able to do so. I finally got brave and started applying to some more jobs in my field of ecology and conservation, as well as spending quite a bit of time volunteering. Finally, just a couple weeks ago, a dear friend and mentor invited me to join her in doing whatever we can to help birds — you know, those tiny sky-dinosaurs who constantly remind me that we all have battles to fight, and that we can all still be beautiful despite that fact.

And now the year is done.

In 365 days, I’ve experienced a cushy salary, unemployment, under-employment, re-employment, moving out, moving in, moving home, 2 states, countless panic attacks with no discernible trigger, 3 mental illness diagnoses, trying and rejecting 4 different medications to help control them, camping, backpacking, skinny dipping, yoga, love, heartbreak, long-distance cycling, a 5-month battle with addiction to a medicine I took exactly as prescribed, making coffee with friends, dating again, birds and the geeks who love them, breaking and putting myself back together, falling and getting back up… in short, I’ve been human.


 

So back to the three things I purchased today.

Spending a lot of time writing for others — while very rewarding and oddly exhilarating — has unfortunately sapped some of my enthusiasm for writing for myself. I spent most of my working time in 2016 click-clacking away behind a computer screen, so I wasn’t going to spend my dawn and dusk hours doing the same.

But that’s not what I want. I miss my little blog. Even though I’ve never won, entering short fiction contests brought me joy. And I can’t even remember the last time I wrote a silly limerick.

So that’s what brought me to New Year’s Eve Purchase #1. I was planning to let this domain expire, but I figured I’d give it another year before pulling the plug. We’ll see what comes out of it.

The second New Year’s Eve Purchase goes along with the first. It’s about writing for myself, for reflection and peace, for goal-setting and gratituding.

And the third and final purchase? Well, I’ve just had this strangely specific feeling lately like I’d really like to be able to beat the shit out of something and call it self-care. I wavered between drums and punching bag, but the loud option finally won out. As it does.

Here’s to a 2017 full of writing, reflecting, and making terrible, terrible sounds in the basement until my roommate throws me out.

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